Winding down

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We had the house until Wednesday morning, but decided to have a leisurely breakfast and head into San Francisco for the day before spending the night with Erik & Nerissa. (Trying to get to Oakland from wine country seemed stressful… ) We had a little business to take care of (pack up the bike, get a shipping box to check our wine on the plane, etc.) so we didn’t end up leaving until noon. Our first order of business was lunch at In-n-Out, naturally. Then we crossed over the Golden Gate bridge to meet up with a friend I’ve known since my SF State days, Juliet. I made T take some pictures of the bridge as we were driving, because that’s what a dedicated blogger I am!

GGB-1 GGB-2 GGB-3 GGB-4As you can see, late-July in San Francisco is chilly! (And don’t bust out that Mark Twain quote to a local, they’ll punch you in the face. Mostly because it’s true… )

Juliet was house sitting in the Presidio, which is a really cool neighborhood in SF. (It was still a military base when I was in college, that’s how old I am… ) It has this cool small town feeling to it, with cool old houses tucked into a eucalyptus grove:

Presidio2 PresidioThe house Juliet was watching was lovely – a perfect combination of designer and comfortable. She was babysitting a little boy, who put up with our chit-chat very patiently. We walked with her to take him home, which gave us the opportunity to see the coolest fountain of all time (if you’re a nerd):

YodaFountainThe jokes for the caption pretty much write themselves.

It was so great to catch up with Juliet. We were roommates in college, backpacked through Europe together and had various other adventures together. She’s one of those friends that we can just resume conversation regardless of how long it’s been since last we spoke. I think we would have gabbed the whole evening away, but unfortunately we had to hit the road.

Traffic was it’s usual charming self leaving SF, but once we got over the bridge it was relatively painless. (I think we actually spent as much time going the ~mile to get out of the city as we did the entire rest of the trip. Lame!) We had a lovely evening with Erik & Nerissa, drinking fabulous wine and enjoying a casual dinner at their place.

I was nervous about negotiating all of our luggage/rental car return but we sailed through that craziness. (T had the genius idea of taking the rental to Skycap and checking our bags in before returning the car. It was amazingly awesome.) We did the same thing on the other end, with him going to baggage claim and me going to get the car, so no shuttle negotiation with way too much crap was required. Booyah! We celebrated our return home with some adult refreshment:

BeveragesT spoke highly of the beer (it was a little hoppy for my palate) and while we’d had a fantastic time, it was good to be home.

Monday fun day

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Everyone was heading out on Monday morning, so it was just going to be T & I. We had breakfast with Heidi and the girls before they hit the road and then decided to go check out Armstrong Woods. Because it was Monday morning, we had the place mostly to ourselves. We stuck to the easy flat trail, as I was still pretty slow moving (and my pinky toes felt like they’d been hit with a hammer.) It was peaceful and gorgeous:

Redwoods2RedwoodMontage Redwoods1Redwoods3 Redwoods6 Redwoods5 Redwoods4We were planning to meet up with the Cyclones in Napa for dinner, so we decided that we’d basically just do a leisurely drive out there – do some wine tasting, grab some lunch and enjoy the day. We made an appointment to taste at a winery that Erik had recommended, who’s wine we’d tried at dinner. We got lunch at a place Nerissa had recommended:

DryCreekGSIt was exactly the sort of place you expect to find in wine country. Filled with cute vintagey things that white people like:

PlanterThey had yummy sandwiches, although the customer service was lackluster at best. T spied this display of antique rolling pins and was scandalized at the price:

RollingPinsI thought $1250.00 was a bargain, but apparently not! 😉 While I was waiting to pay for our lunch, I spied someone drinking a Pliny the Elder – a beer that’s very rare in our neck of the woods and is supposed to be a big deal. I pointed it out to T and he sprinted to find one. Success! He was pretty psyched. We ate our lunch in adirondack chairs looking at this terrible scenery. Life is rough!

SceneryProperly fueled, we headed to Acorn. The scenery was also quite terrible:

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Scenery4

Scenery2

BarrelsThey also had this amazing handicapped parking space marker:

FunnyParkingThe wines were spectacular. We added to our excessive amount of luggage by buying four bottles. Should you find yourself in the Russian River valley, I HIGHLY recommend making an appointment to taste with them.

We then went to Foppiano, a winery we used to visit when we lived in the Bay Area that was known for their inexpensive but excellent sirah. They still specialized in sirah, but they had a new winemaker who was doing some cool stuff with it. It was fun to visit someplace we’d been before. I didn’t remember this train car, but it had to have been there:

FoppianoThen we made our way over to Napa, enjoying the pretty day and lovely scenery. We met up with Mr. Cyclone at his office in St. Helena and chatted for a little bit, then continued on to Napa. Most of the tasting rooms were closed, but we got a text to meet Ms. Cyclone at her winery and she’d hook us up with a discount. (I wanted to get Erik a bottle of wine as a thank you for renting the house with us and being an awesome brother.) She let us taste a number of amazing wines and we got some GREAT bottles of wine. It was awesome.

Then we hung out at Casa Cyclone. They have two kids now, Bella (who we’d met last time we were down) was now almost four and baby Luke is a two year old bundle of energy. We drank wine in the backyard while the kids ran around. Then the men went off to pick up dinner and let the ladies catch up. It was so good to see them and I constantly marvel at how much our lives have changed since the NYC days. We got back a little late, but it was worth it.

And on the seventh day, they rested…

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I had no idea what to expect when I went to bed after the race. Sometimes I don’t sleep well after the long races. My legs twitch and it’s like my brain can’t turn itself off after moving for that many hours. But I actually fell soundly asleep, woke up in the middle of the night to pee and then passed out dead asleep again. When I woke up, I was actually feeling pretty decent. My body was tired, but all things considered, I was pretty mobile. My stomach felt fine, except for being STARVING. Heidi and the girls were already up, so I hung out with them until everyone else got up.

We went out for a nice leisurely breakfast, (where I may have ordered two breakfasts) and then Heidi took the girls to see the redwoods at Armstrong Woods. The rest of us headed back to the house to find that M & J had arrived. Erik & Nerissa were heading home today, so M & J were taking their room to stay another night in wine country. Our big plans for the day were to hang around the house and play in the river with the girls. Luckily, we had bouncing baby Rowan to keep us company:

ErikRowan MRowanWe bid farewell to Erik & Nerissa and when Heidi and the girls returned from their redwoods adventures, it was time to hit the river. It took me quite a while, but I made it down the three flights of stairs to the dock. The house had a huge selection of inflatable rafts and inner tubes, so I brought one down with me. It was heaven to just be able to float in the cool water, occasionally kicking my legs to keep from floating downriver. T launched the kayaks at some point, so I switched from raft to kayak. I brought Kamryn into my kayak for a little river expedition:

KayakMeIt was really fun, even though I think Kamryn was disappointed by Auntie Michelle’s inability to go “Faster! Faster!!”:

TMeKayak

Uncle T took her out for a spin:

TKayakAuntie Martha even got into the act, swimming from kayak to kayak after Kamryn dubbed her the sea monster. Hilarious. Eventually, she took over my kayak duties and they saw a buoy float shaped like a crocodile that Kamryn dubbed “the nicest crocodile she’d ever met.”

MeKenleyM-kayakIt was an excellent day on the water.

MeKamrynKayakWhile we docked the kayaks, Kenley showed us how lounging was done:

KenleyLoungesI was of course getting hungry again, so I talked T into walking (slowly) into town to get some lunch and replace my Starbucks cup that had gone missing the day before. It took a while, but it was nice to loosen up the legs. While we were there, I snapped this photo. It pretty much sums up what there is to do in Guerneville:

GuernevilleSignMy favorite part is that it’s in the parking lot of a different liquor store. We went to this ice cream place that also sold food. T had some sort of ice cream concoction, while I had such a decadent assortment of junk food – burger, cheese fries, root beer float. It was divine. Then we walked slowly back to the house. J was taking Rowan out for a walk so that M could nap, so the house was pretty quiet when we got back. Poor T needed a rest after all of that exertion, so he took a little couch nap:

TnapI chilled out with Heidi on the deck, while the girls played with chalk and bubbles. Somehow the game turned into some sort of variation on doctor where Kenley smeared her bubble wand onto my legs, then some Gogurt, then added some Winnie the Pooh bandaids and then shoved her fairy wand and chalk ice cream cone into the hem of my shorts as a reward for all of the “shots” I’d gotten. It kept her entertained and I got to sit with my legs outstretched, drinking a cold adult beverage. (Blackberry cider, FTW!)

GirlsDoctorIt was a pretty lazy afternoon, followed by an even lazier evening. We ordered a lackluster pizza because no one felt like cooking. Despite the so-so cuisine, it was still a lovely evening.

 

 

 

 

 

Race report: Vineman

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Before I write one of my trademark ridiculously long race reports, I must give a heart-felt thank you to my friends and family. Both online and in person, your support during this race was both awesome and overwhelming. And in this case, I don’t think I’d have crossed the finish line without you. This phrase is over-used, but no less true: I’m blessed to have all of you in my life. </mushystuff>

PRE-RACE:
I did my usual tossing and turning  before giving up and getting out of bed fifteen minutes before my 4:30 alarm clock. I felt bad for Heidi because while I wasn’t sleeping I could hear the girls asking her questions, so I know she wasn’t getting much sleep either. I made my new pre-race breakfast of frozen waffles and nutella with a banana. I was originally planning to just bike to the race start, but T was actually awake, so I talked him into walking with me. It was nice to have company as we walked down the dark highway. There were already a bunch of triathletes on the road, so it was only quiet for a short while. Soon it was time to part ways as I headed into the athlete’s only area to set up my transition area.

pre-raceThey had body markers roaming around the transition area, which was so much nicer than having to line up to do it. The girl who did mine told me “I hope you win!” which made me laugh out loud. (Something really bad would have to happen to the rest of the field for that to happen!)

T went to get coffee while I did all of my pre-race stuff. My favorite sight was some guy wandering around in what looked like a hotel bathrobe. He cracked the entire porta potty line up. It was like racing at the Playboy Mansion. I met up with T again and did my usual pre-race cry. (The enormity of these races catches me off guard sometimes.) Then it was time to get into the wetsuit and do a quick warm-up. T got this awesome shot of me as I came out of the water:

SwimWarmup

THE SWIM
I had to hustle to join my wave, which was a little stressful, but it didn’t give me much time to get nervous. Then the usual mess of starting to swim, having people do all manner of craziness in front of me (breast stroke from the very beginning? Really?!) My goggles filled with water, but luckily I got them fixed quickly with only one adjustment. (Knowing that the river would eventually be shallow enough to do this again if I needed to was nice. There was some kind of river plants that had very fine tendrils that got chopped up by all of the swimmers before us and was exactly like swimming through a bunch of dog hair. (GROSS!) But luckily, it was only a little section (that we’d get to swim through three more times, lucky us!)

The weirdest thing about the swim was looking up to see people walking at various intervals. I downloaded a couple of images off the internet to show what the swim looks like:

VinemanSwim2This is looking towards the turn-around, where a lot of the walking happens. It was super odd, but made the potential of being swum over much less scary, since you could just stand up.

VinemanSwimI swam as much as I could, because it was a lot easier than stumbling around a rocky river bed, but there were a few sections where it was so shallow that I thought I was going to fall on my face. It was also a fairly crowded swim, which was stressful for me, but I just did the best I could. I can’t say I ever really found a rhythm and I was very surprised when I came out of the water at 1:31. I think this picture sums it up nicely:

SwimExit

T1:
I was actually pretty proud of this transition. I felt calm and in control. I went down the wrong aisle briefly, but was able to correct it without too much problem. I was able to give my stuff to T, which was way more awesome than letting it marinate in the sun all day. (There were a few volunteers that were so sweet, offering to take the bag and then handing it off to T for me when I explained. They were the first of many awesome volunteers that I met over the course of the day.)

BIKE:
Leading into the race, I heard over and over how much easier this course was than Canada. I think they’re just differently hard. Canada has two major climbs with a bunch of rollers in the middle, where this course was more like a roller coaster, twists and turns, ups and downs. It had a climb that you did twice, once at mile 30-something and again at mile 100. I loved it. It was never boring and there was tons of pretty stuff to look at. In looking at my race photos, there are a ton where I have a huge smile on my face, which matches my memory of how I felt about the course:

Bike1

Bike2I planned to only stop at the special needs aid station at the half-way mark and I kept to that plan. The only bummer was that they had two porta-potties at that aid station, so there was a line. Then the special needs bags were at the other end, so you either had to walk your bike or ride while dodging other triathletes who were trying to get things from the aid station in the middle of these two points. So, my stop there was much longer than I wanted it to be. Oh well…

I hadn’t really expected to see my cheering section out on the bike course, since we’d been told not to have folks driving on the course with us. But suddenly, I turned the corner and there they were! I was so surprised and happy that I actually teared up after seeing them. You’re out there for such a long time by yourself that you get easily emotional at the sight of some familiar faces. The miles ticked by and I tried not to be nervous about climbing Chalk Hill for the second time. It turned out fine, but definitely tougher the second time. I was again surprised by M, J & Baby Rowan around mile 105. J has this bright orange baseball cap that I could see for quite a distance, so I spotted him before I even knew what I was looking at.

The last few miles are always a bit of a struggle. I was looking forward to getting off that damn bike, that’s for sure.

T2:
I was moving a little slower on this transition. I took my time taping up a couple of my toes that are prone to blisters and struggled into my Injinji compression socks. (Those things are awesome, but man are they a PITA to get into!) I had a bandana to wrap ice in and put around my neck which felt like heaven, both because it was cooling and because my neck was stiff from being on the bike for so long. I also grabbed some sunscreen and chaffing creme and stuffed them in my pocket.

RUN:
Run special needs was right outside T2 and T was standing across from it. He checked in with me and I was pleased to report that I was feeling great. Unlike IMC, I was able to run (sort of) right from the start. The rest of the crew was right around the corner and Nerissa took this rad picture of me heading out:

OffToRunThe course is basically three out-and-back sections of a little over 8.5 miles. This is exactly as tough as you might imagine, but I tried to just focus on each piece at a time. The first section was about finding a run/walk interval that worked for me. I had my watch set for 2 min run/1 min walk, but I also was walking aid stations and uphills, so it was a little bit of a mess. Finally, I just started running all of the downhills and as many of the two minute intervals as I could, longer when I felt like it.

There were a ton of other folks on the course and it was nice to see that even the faster folks were struggling. (Misery loves company and all that… ) I was able to run a bit more as I came in to start the second loop. It definitely helped knowing I’d get to see everyone. I high-fived them and headed back out onto the course. Initially, loop two went awesome. I was able to run and felt pretty smooth. Then I started feeling some… um… intestinal issues. I stopped at an aid station and dropped some weight, but when I tried running I still felt like I might poop myself. So, there was a lot more walking than I wanted. Then the pity party started. Then I started worrying about making the cutoff to start lap 3 or worse yet, making that cutoff but not making the finish cut off. This picture perfectly sums up my feelings on lap 2:

RunStaggerBy the time I got back to the cheering section, I was a weepy mess. I really wasn’t sure I was going to make the finish line cutoff and I was scared to go through that drama again. But here’s where I have the best friends ever – they kindly but firmly gave my hoody, reminded me to grab my headlamp from special needs and took the bag from me. T made me grab a gel and M told me “You don’t have anything else you have to do tonight. Put one foot in front of the other and get it done.” It was so effective that I actually started to run again. They ran alongside me for a little bit and I headed back out into the night.

RunNight

The volunteers were truly fantastic. They encouraged us, fetched things at the aid station and generally kept spirits up. I was determined to run as much as possible and bank as much time against the deadline as I could. By this point, my feet hurt just as much running as they did walking, so I just kept a steady shuffle going lest I wake up the GI monster again. I was very glad I’d brought my headlamp because it was pitch black out there. I was pleasantly surprised by how many folks were still out on the course and everyone was super encouraging and supportive. It helped as much to cheer others on as it was to be cheered by them.

There was an asian dude dressed as Mr. Incredible (complete with foam muscles) and I thanked him for being out there. He was cheering on his friend, who I ran with for a little bit and chatted with. He was doing his second iron distance as well and we bonded over the differences in preparation from race #1 and race #2. As I was about halfway through the last section, a volunteer asked if I’d like some company. I said sure and she ran/walked with me. Her name was Anna and once she told me about how her family had made signs that said “Bananas!” when she did Vineman, I started thinking of her as Anna Bananas. She was great, she told me funny stories about things she’d seen over the course of the day and kept my spirits up. (Now that I was pretty certain I was going to finish, I was in a much better headspace.)

We started the last section and I heard voices. Then Erik’s voice said “Is that Michelle?” When I answered, there was a flurry of excitement and suddenly I was surrounded by Erik, Nerissa and Martha all telling me at once that the timing mat at the final turnaround hadn’t shown up on the tracking and they’d been worried about me. Erik went to call T and I introduced everyone to Anna Banana. She left me in their capable hands and went to help another race. (THANKS ANNA!!!) T met up with us and Nerissa fired up “Eye of the Tiger” on her phone. I was run/walking at this point because my stomach was getting a little queasy when I ran. Since I didn’t have to push it, I decided doing an Ironman without barfing would be nice.

Finally, we were in the homestretch and I ran for the finishing chute. I could hear the announcer and see the lights and I was soooooo happy. Once again, this race picture sums it up quite well, even if it’s not the most flattering:

AllDoneThe volunteers had formed a little “tunnel” that the finishers would go through, while they chanted “Gauntlet… Gauntlet!” It was fantastic and so funny. Then I got my medal and finisher shirt. The volunteers handing out the shirts were so nice. She apologized for them only having women’s mediums that were a little small, so the other volunteer gave me a mens small, just in case. Nerissa took a triumphant finisher shot:

FinishLineDon’t worry, I eventually figured out that I had the headlamp still on. 😉

There was still plenty of food left and I was actually in a state to eat something. They had some chicken noodle soup that tasted like the best thing ever. I had that and some watermelon and was pretty happy. M & T kept me company while Erik & Nerissa went to get the car. I was astonished by how much better I felt than last time. I was actually able to walk (albeit so very slowly) to the car, including negotiating getting around some race fencing down a grassy embankment.

I didn’t find out my real finishing time until the next day, but I finished in 16:16 – a 31 minute PR over Canada. (I’d hoped to knock another hour off of that time, but considering I’d been worried about finishing at all, I am still pretty happy about it.) I learned a lot and have a feeling that there might be a third Ironman in my future.

 

 

 

 

 

Takin’ care of business

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Erik & Nerissa had spotted some blackberries down by the dock, so we’d asked T to make some pancakes with them. He happily obliged, so Erik & I headed down to the dock, while Nerissa went to get some from a bush she’d seen in front of the house:

Blackberries

Erik’s height comes in very handy when picking blackberries, by the way:
ErikBlackberriesBreakfast was super delicious. Bacon, pancakes with a blackberry sauce and eggs. Too good.

After a little digestion time, we headed down to the river for a practice swim for me and some kayaking/inner tubing for everyone else. The river was delightful and very shallow in spots. The only bummer was that while I was holding a kayak for T, I kicked some piece of metal on the dock support and the arch of my foot hurt like a son of a bitch. It had a tiny cut and a bruise pretty much immediately. I tried really hard to not freak out and hoped that it would stop hurting soon.

After the swim, T and I headed over to the pre-race meeting/expo at Windsor High School. Unfortunately, the race meetings were every hour and we missed one by seven minutes. But it gave us plenty of time to wander around the expo and look at stuff. I wanted to get T this t-shirt:

SpectatorTFinally it was time for the meeting, which was well run. It was informative and short (a rare combination for pre-race meetings!) Then we got to pick up our packets and set up our bike-to-run transition areas. Someone had drawn a huge chalk drawing next to my rack, which was an excellent landmark:

RackMarkingIt was funny setting up my spot, knowing I wouldn’t see it again until tomorrow after so much biking and swimming:

T2Then we hit up Whole Foods for some dinner and post-race groceries and RiteAid for some first aid supplies for my poor foot, which was still really hurting. Since this is exactly the kind of “injury” I always get paranoid about before a big race, it was getting tougher to keep the freak-out at bay.

We finally made it back to the house to find that Heidi and her girls, plus M, J & baby Rowan had all arrived. Heidi took the girls for a swim from the dock, so M & I went down to keep her company. The boys handled the dinner so that we could just relax. I iced my foot and watched the girls jump off the dock.

HeidiGirlsSwimMontage

HeidiGirlsSwim1

Kamryn had a couple of jumps where she basically landed on Heidi’s head. Nothing I do tomorrow will be as impressive as Heidi surviving that hit!

HeidiGirlsSwim2Dinner was out on our lovely deck and was delicious. There were burgers, salmon and chicken. Along with salads and a baked potato for yours truly. It was such a nice, relaxing way to spend the night before a big race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The adventure begins

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The last few days were a blur of packing and getting things ready. But finally, the big day arrived and we were off to Northern California. The flight down was uneventful. There was a pretty view of Mt. Rainier and a little “mini me” mountain behind it that I took a picture of from the plane window:

PlaneWindowWe got into Oakland later than scheduled, so we ended up having a late dinner with Erik & Nerissa at a yummy Mexican place. Afterward, we chatted over a nice glass of wine before heading off to bed.

The next morning, we slept in and had a leisurely morning. T bonded with Kali:

TKali

While Mojo watched their silliness. Such a good boy!

MojoI tested out the hammock while Erik & Nerissa were packing up. It’s pretty sweet:

HammockThen we hit the road to Guerneville. We had to stop for gas on the way, and while in the convenience store, I spotted these treasures:

ShaqDrinks(Apparently, Shaquille O’Neill has run out of money!) I thought about buying a couple for my bike hydration, but figured it probably wasn’t the best idea.

We stopped at a really cute little lunch place. We ate outside and Erik tormented the waitress by telling her that all four of us wanted the special we’d just been told they were out of. Her face looked absolutely devastated and then so relieved when she realized he was kidding. (Hope the saliva in his food was worth it… Hee hee!) After a very delicious lunch, we drove the last little bit to the rental house.

When you rent a place online, it’s always a bit of a question of what it will be like in person. Pictures are often inaccurate and it’s hard to capture the feel of a house with pictures. But this place was just as nice as we’d hoped. There was plenty of space to hang out in the living room and a big deck. There were a ton of stairs, one flight down to a hot tub and then another flight down to our own personal dock:

RiverDockThe view of the house from the dock:

HouseThere was a construction site next door and we liked that it looked like they built a little cartoon-style mouse hole in it:

Mousehole

I took care of a little race business and put my bike together and then went for a short run to loosen up the legs a little bit. Then the four of us headed down the road to Korbel for some champagne tasting.

KorbelShould you find yourself in the Russian River valley, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Korbel. They have a ton of different champagnes to taste, so it was fun to try some different types. (I tend to be of the champagne = yummy persuasion, so I’ve never even thought about if I liked a drier vs. sweeter champagne.) It was a great way to kick the trip off:

Cheers

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You were warned…

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I should probably refrain from writing blog posts during taper, but I have so many amusing pictures to share from the last couple of days. (They are amusing to me at least, so apologies if that’s just my crazy brain… ) On Friday morning as I was walking to the office, I was passed by this gentleman and his lovely dog:

RadDogI don’t know if it was a therapy dog or just his pet but I loved watching them. I couldn’t resist taking a surreptitious photo while we waited for the stoplight.

We’ve been having super gorgeous weather lately, so lunch had to be someplace outdoors. Luckily, Reed knew about this little gem:

LunchIt’s a bar/restaurant on the fifth floor of the Red Lion Hotel downtown. The view is obstructed by buildings, but it’s still really awesome out there. Shortly after this picture was taken those tables were all pushed together and inhabited by a huge group of nerds, so the vibe was a bit less fashionable…

After work, I opted to take the bus that gets me to my neighborhood sooner but requires a longer walk home. I passed this amusing bit of vandalism:

TrexSignAnd then walked home by way of Green Lake. There were a million people out enjoying the day, dogs swimming (including an adorable St. Bernard) and it just felt like the epitome of summer.

The next morning we had to get up at the crack of dawn to drive Wally down to Salem, where he’ll be staying while we’re away. We arrived at Susan’s house to be greeted by this post-it note:

PostItFor those who haven’t heard the endless stories, Susan usually has a list of chores for T to do when he visits. Usually they’re more on the order of changing the clock on the microwave and reminding her where gmail lives on her computer, but occasionally she comes up with something epic for him to do. Years ago, she offered to pay for our plane tickets from New York. We pulled into a driveway filled with two pallets of flag stone for a little patio project she had in mind.

But T is a good sport, so he got to work and managed to get the new dishwasher in and the old one outside for pick-up. We even managed to get out for a quick bike ride before we had to head home. The scenery was terrible, as usual:

FarmScenery

But the company was pretty great:
TSusanAnd now all that’s left is a million hours of packing and this little adventure will be off and running. Look forward to some good blog fodder, at the very least.